American Airlines repair hanger in Columbus provides repair and maintenance for Americans fleet of jets. This facility typically services five aircraft per night but has the capacity to service up to seven. Planes fly into the Columbus airport and are serviced or repaired at night and return the next morning to run their regular routes throughout the country. Dependability of the equipment and service techs at this facility is mission critical to ensuring the safety of passengers but also the continuity of service and routes. If a plane is not returned to service the next day another will have to be brought in from a different and possibly remote location costing time and money.
The Columbus facility was constructed pre-World War II, and at one time served as a manufacturing facility for the war effort. American Airlines established the repair facility in the existing hanger in 2000. Two power operated folding overhead doors allow for planes to enter and exit the repair hanger bays. These doors are the only means of getting planes in and out of the facility. At nearly eighty years old they had reached the end of their lifecycle. Parts were no longer available for the doors so if repairs were needed it could take several weeks to have the parts made or alternatives retrofitted to return the door into service. American Airlines sought out replacements to ensure dependability of service of their fleet but additionally to allow for servicing larger aircraft from Columbus.
Megadoors manufactured by Assa Abloy were chosen as the best fit to replace the aging doors. The lightweight design and increased overhead space when fully retracted made this choice easy. Their doors are translucent, and their honeycomb design provides insulation value, as well. Ozanne Construction Company was chosen as the general contractor for the door replacement because of their experience working in airports and high security sites. Ozanne has a history of delivering projects on time and on budget so it made them an easy choice for the work.
In July of 2018 Ozanne met on site with American Airlines project manager Jon Knausz and Megadoor project manager Pierre Varlamoff. American needed the facility ready to receive Embraer E 175 aircraft that, due to the door height restrictions, had not previously been serviced in Columbus. The new doors would need to be in place in the first quarter of 2019 to meet the schedule of new aircraft. Design work began on the structural, mechanical, and electrical work that needed to be completed prior to installing the new door. FSB would be the designer for the project. Their extensive knowledge of AA facilities and aircraft made them the logical choice. Ben Wallace and Randy McDaniel headed up the design work for FSB. Within one months’ time the documents had been developed to a point that coordination between existing site conditions and Megadoor specifications was needed. Ozanne worked through those details bridging the design team located in Oklahoma with the Megadoor team located in Atlanta on a project site in Columbus Ohio.
The schedule created by Ozanne Construction was aggressive, but obtainable due to the experience and knowledge of the teams working on this project.
Schedule for American Airlines Hangar Doors
7/18/2018 – Design Work
9/18/2018 – Permitting
10/18/2018 – Demo 1st Door
11/18/2018 – Demo 2nd Door
12/18/2018 – Work Completed
This aggressive timeline shows that the teams were able to stay on track and complete the project prior to the original due date of the first quarter of 2019.
Over the years the building had had several occupants and the infrastructure of their operations remained in many areas of the building. Most of those existing building components were no longer used for the current operations of AA. Existing overhead electrical, roof drain piping, sprinkler piping and heads, steel and wood catwalks, structural supports for the old doors, and heavy door counterweights needed to be removed to create overhead space for the new doors to stack. Ozanne provided field documentation of the existing conditions and updated this information throughout design. The building electrical distribution was updated when AA took over the facility, but the new doors required different voltage and new power feeds and control wiring would be required. Ozanne identified the pathways and equipment in the field and worked with the design team to document those conditions which helped control cost for the owner by eliminating most of the unknown or unforeseen conditions. Permit drawings were completed in September of 2018 and a permit was issued in early October.
The larger of the two doors faced west and due to the length would need to be constructed with two separate door leaves with a center support joining the two sections. The two-part door, 160’ wide by 36’ high, would have a power operated astragal that would help the door resist high wind loading. In addition to resisting wind loads the astragal also is the guide that holds the two sections together keeping the door weathertight. Megadoor’s controls allow one side of the door to raise or lower, the astragal to raise or lower, and then the second portion of the door to raise or lower in sequence. Recessed into the concrete slab was a receiver for the astragal that would lock it in place ensuring the structural integrity of the two sections to act as one. Placement of this receiver would need to be within 1/16” vertically and horizontally to allow the locking mechanism to operate properly. Ozanne would need to cut out and remove the existing concrete and embed this receiver into new concrete 6 weeks prior to receiving the door on site. This critical dimension needed to be held for the entire door to function properly. Ozanne’s superintendent in the field Pat Monroe oversaw the layout and installation of the new doors.
“What was key was prior to setting the receiver Megadoor field installers showed up on site and assisted in layout of the receiver. Knowing the function of the door was critical to alignment. They had firsthand knowledge of the working operation of the door which was critical.” Monroe said.
“Same for the steel for the single part door. Alignment and placement were critical. If you’re within a ¼” its generally good for steel in building construction but 1/16” was the maximum that the door could handle. That information was assumed but the Megadoor installers talked through that while on site prior to pouring concrete and setting steel. Coordination and cooperation were definitely essential, and this was a project where everyone saw that and worked together.”
The west facing tow part Megadoor was installed in early November and functioned perfectly due to this coordination effort. As work continued on-site, the coordination between the AA Columbus crew and Ozanne was critical. Each night the hanger had to be ready to receive planes for maintenance work. Since there were two doors one was always operational. However, the workspace needed to be cleared of materials and equipment from the demolition and construction work earlier that day. If power had to be turned off it would need to be restored by the end of the workday. Schedule and dependable delivery of work areas was critical. Base Commander Troy Johnson leads the AA team in Columbus.
Due to work and schedule changes planes might go out earlier than originally thought. “Coordination with one door made it challenging. At times we had to hook up and tow a plane out to get to another one that needed to leave earlier or because the one in the way had more repair work.” Troy Johnson Base Commander
Daily coordination in an occupied building that is continuing it’s regular operations is a challenge. Communication between Ozanne and AA on work activities was necessary on a daily basis. Unscheduled repair work could come into the facility any evening and construction activities would need to be altered to accommodate that.
“Troy was absolutely the best to work with.” said Pat Monroe. “He demanded that we kept to our daily commitments to them and he made sure his people did the same for us.”
As challenges arose, they were met and conquered. TSA has high security measures and requirements that came with working at an airside location. Workmen had to have background checks and security clearances since they would be working on the secured side of the fence. Material deliveries and removal would need to be supervised by badged individuals. Lifting the steel in place with a crane was not possible due to FAA restrictions. So, the steel erection crew used telescoping boom lifts to place the steel supports for the exterior hood structural in place. A higher level of safety and security were both needed on a daily basis for this reason. Ozanne, AA, and Megadoor all faced these challenges together and worked collectively to ensure that jobsite safety, airport security, and continuity of American Airlines service was maintained.
“If I had any questions, he (Pat) would be right there for me.” Troy Johnson said. “We never really had any issues.”
Installation began on the one-part door with dimensions of 132’ wide by 36’ high, at the end of November, with the same sequence starting over again. Safety, security, dependability of work areas were critical and once again it all came down to teams continued cooperative attitudes. As Pat Monroe stated it this was one of the best coordinated projects that he had worked on in his 40 plus years in the construction industry. Work continued through inclement weather and not one day of operations was lost for AA due to the construction and installation of the new Megadoors. Jon Knausz of American stated “Ozanne and Megadoor came through with delivering this project on time and on budget with no delays in service to American. That is a great story and the success of the project.”